Kanawha County’s school system is proposing ditching the scoring rubric it uses to rank applicants for principal and other education administrator jobs based on factors such as their years of experience and specialized training.
All references would be removed regarding the amount of points, or weight, given to various qualifications. These qualifications also include candidates’ past attendance and college degree level. The only scoring left in the changed administrator hiring policy would be for the interview.
King had about one year of experience as an assistant principal, while Williams had been an assistant principal for 14 years. A judge ordered the school system to give Williams the principal job, and it has.
A large part of Williams’ successful argument that she was the most qualified for the job was that she scored highest on the qualification scoring rubric the school system is now proposing to jettison. But the school system, which declined to provide an interview on the proposed policy changes and offered to answer only emailed questions, hasn’t said there’s any connection between the proposal and the Williams case.
Several Kanawha Board of Education members, who ultimately must decide whether to approve the proposed policy changes or not, also said they haven’t heard of any connection.
“I don’t know how instructive the numerical scoring is,” board member Ryan White said. “It seems to create a false sense of ranking of employees when, in my opinion, I do think there should be a general bit of latitude given to the superintendent, because the superintendent may be able to identify a personality characteristic that may make somebody a better principal.”
But White said he doesn’t yet know how he’ll vote on the proposed changes, and he wants to see the public comments. You can email comments to proposedpolicy @mail.kana.k12.wv.us during the comment period, which ends May 16.
The existing policy already gives the superintendent the latitude to choose, among the top four scoring applicants, which one to recommend to the board to hire. The proposed changes, which would leave no qualification scoring or ranking in the policy, would allow the superintendent to recommend any applicant he or she considers “the most qualified.”
The school system also is proposing deleting from the policy a requirement that there will be, for interviewing applicants, a “standing pool of individuals” that must include a human resources employee, teachers and others.
The proposed changes also would erase the selection committee that is supposed to assign the qualification scores that would be eliminated. For principal hires, that selection committee includes a faculty senate representative in the process of ensuring applicants get the right scores for their various qualifications, such as the up-to-10 points on the 100-point scale for “relevant specialized training” and the up-to-15 points for the number of years of “relevant” experience.
The proposed changes still would require school administrators to be on the remaining interview team, and the changes would add a line saying the interview team “shall be approved by the superintendent.”
The school system also is proposing erasing a line saying job postings for administrator positions must state that the “identities and qualifications of applicants will be disclosed in response to Freedom of Information [Act] requests.”
Under state law, citizens may file FOIA requests to force governments, such as county school systems, to provide documents. But governments often try to use exemptions in that law to keep the records out of the public eye.
The proposed changes are available to read on the school system’s website, in “Proposed Policies” under the “District” tab at the top of the page. The words proposed to be added are underlined and those proposed to be deleted are lined through.
State law says school boards must hire the “applicant with the highest qualifications” for these positions, and the law includes a list of qualifications that must be considered, including experience, college degree level and specialized training.
But the law also says school boards are “entitled to determine the appropriate weight to apply to each of the criterion,” and boards can include “other measures or indicators upon which the relative qualifications of the applicant may fairly be judged.”
So, if Kanawha’s board approves the proposed changes, including deleting the existing list of qualifications to be considered and nixing the numerical scoring system used to weigh these qualifications, it will open the way for qualifications to be weighed differently among different applicants, and for extra qualifications to be considered in some hirings but not others.
And the superintendent would have even more latitude on whom to recommend to the board for hiring.
In the Kim Williams situation, an administrative law judge who ruled on her official grievance before the case went to court noted questionable actions by then-deputy superintendent, now-Superintendent Tom Williams (no relation).
Tom Williams, upon learning that Kim Williams and only one other person had applied for the South Charleston principal position, asked for the opening to be re-advertised and then told King about the opening. King was a student of Tom Williams when he was principal of St. Albans High, and Tom Williams served on a doctoral committee for King and as a reference on his application.
Kanawha schools general counsel Lindsey McIntosh noted during an April 15 board meeting, when the proposed changes were announced, that “we are statutorily required to consider all of these categories” regarding applicants’ qualifications.
“But, for whatever reason, we assigned point values, so we’re taking out the point values for that,” McIntosh said. “However, it is very clear in the policy that we will still consider all of the categories, as is required by law.”
Regarding removing the line on applicants’ names and qualifications being subject to FOIA requests, McIntosh said the information still would be publicly disclosed.
“We’re taking it out because it’s obvious, that’s in the law,” she said at the end of the meeting. “There’s no need to restate it in a policy if it’s found somewhere else.”
When White, the board member, asked why the school system was proposing removing the requirement for the interview pool including teachers in it, McIntosh similarly said the intent isn’t to change something there.
“We’re trying to shorten some of these policies,” she said. “We’re taking out language that we already know will be in there.”